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Rambharat works on farmers’ needs
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat is getting ready to take between 200 and 300 farmers’ applications for new leases to Cabinet for approval in the coming weeks. This, he said, was out of the thousands of applications he had received from people in the agricultural sector.
Commenting briefly following a sod-turning ceremony and tour of the Norris Deonarine Wholesale Market, Macoya, on Friday, Rambharat assured they were making progress and a criteria had been established using parameters which gave priority to certain “conditions.”
“We are making some headway,” Rambharat assured about their attempt to accommodate the farmers.
He said he meets with the ministry’s land team weekly to discuss matters, adding they were using technology to improve efficiency and measures were being put in place to facilitate people who were currently farming on both State and private lands and needed to expand operations immediately. Expressing confidence in the quality of produce being generated by local farmers, Rambharat said it could rival imported products and encouraged farmers to continue to invest in their livelihood.
In turning the sod to begin the first phase of an expansion project at the nation’s largest wholesale market, Rambharat said the five-month long project was being done at a cost of $4.5 million. Upon completion, it will provide a total of 134 new vehicular spots which would go a long way in easing some of the traffic congestion currently being experienced by residents, he said.
Rambharat said it will also lead to more vending spots becoming available within the facility, as farmers will be able to off-load their produce and relocate their vehicles instead of them remaining parked inside the vending precincts.
The minister admitted the existing conditions had made it impossible for the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO) to properly provide a comfortable and safe environment for both vendors and consumers.
He said he continued to be disheartened at seeing farmers lining up outside the Macoya market from the night before in order to get a good spot when the facility opened and still being cheated as “spot blockers, spot takers and spot sellers” operate in a cartel-like manner and force and threaten them to retreat.
On tour of the facility he stopped to purchase hot peppers and heard from several farmers of the need for an upgrade to the facility. Curtis Lord called for a general upgrade of the wash rooms, storage and locker facilities, while Chandra Boodoo said they wanted a more comprehensive lay-out and allocation of stalls for all farmers.
Rio Claro farmer Randy Ramoutar said farmers wanted to see a certain level of support from Government, as they currently felt no-one cared about them. Saying he left his home at 9 pm on Thursday in order to secure a good spot in the line to enter the market, Ramoutar and the others also complained there were vendors who continued to retail at the facility although that form of vending was not allowed.
“We want to get a better dollar and a proper market for our goods, but inside here is a friend and favour thing. We just want a fair chance because we are not robbing anyone,” Ramoutar said.
Rambharat agreed that consideration should be given to changing the operating hours and probably days to accommodate both wholesalers and retailers. Noting his earlier commitment to eradicate market cartels, he said they needed to ensure criminals and anyone inclined to act/engage in criminal activities would be deterred.
Giving an example of the difficulties they faced, Rambharat said they have been unable to commission the Blanchisseuse fishing facility as “people in the area continue to interfere with the electrical equipment, installation and hamper the work of T&TEC because criminals want to operate in darkness.”
NAMDEVCO chairman Dennis Ramdeen admitted the expansion of the market had been long in coming, but noted it was not the “cure all “ was was a start in terms of tackling the vehicular congestion and competition by farmers for spots inside the market. He said they had provided additional security for farmers within the past several months by paying for police and private security at the facility from 4 am until noon daily.